Measuring Blood Sugar: The Eyes Have It
The pump looks like a yo-yo; the insulin sensor is about 10 inches long and about 1/10 inch in diameter. The surgery itself requires general anesthesia and takes about 45 minutes to perform.
When glucose levels are out of whack, a signal is sent to the insulin pump via a wire implanted under the skin -- essentially aping the function of a healthy pancreas.
So far, so good, says Renard, who implanted the device in two men at the end of last year. They have been followed for seven months and are doing well, he says. Since, then he has implanted the system in five more people.
"Treating diabetes without injections and without fingersticks sounded, until now, like a dream," says Renard. "But this dream may become a reality"
Unfortunately, no technique lives up to this promise today. In March, the FDA approved the GlucoWatch, a watch-like device that helps people with diabetes measure their glucose via tiny electric currents. It is "the first step toward noninvasive, continuous glucose monitoring, but it's only a first step," says Robert F. Monoson, MD, chief medical officer of DMCare Inc.
The problem with the GlucoWatch, he says, is that it does not allow for changes of insulin dosing based on numbers.
We need a "glucose monitor that's easy to use, continuous, and where the information is transmitted someplace," says Monoson, who has diabetes. To that end, he is helping develop a wireless glucose meter that tells people what their blood sugar is and what they should do about it.
"Data would be sent wirelessly to a remote site, analyzed, and sent right back on the spot so they can eat differently or change their insulin dose," he says. Also in the works at DMCare is a Palm Pilot-like device that allows a person to enter what they want to eat, and the computer then tells them how much insulin they will need if they do. He expects both products to be available next year.